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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Tuesday, December 1st 2020

Naulago inspired by Bears' Pacific Island legacy

Siva Naulago is out to follow in the footsteps of a long line of legendary Pacific Island-born players to have graced the Bristol Bears shirt, after finally completing his cross-code switch from Hull FC.

The Covid-enforced suspension of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season delayed Naulago’s arrival in the West Country while the 28-year-old speedster completed the 2019/20 Super League season.

But following Hull’s semi-final exit at the hands of Wigan Warriors, the Fijian-born try-machine, who scored 17 Super League tries in just 26 appearances, arrived at Bears HQ keen to make up for lost time in his new surroundings.

“It’s good to be here and I really like the environment; the facilities are world class and the players have been welcoming,” he said.

“We’re in these strange times and now I’ve finished in rugby league, I’m really looking forward to this season and the challenge of learning more and getting better.

“I want to work hard and push myself to try and earn a place in the first team and hopefully I can kick on from there. I’ve got quite a few things I need to cover off with Pat (Lam) and Conor (McPhillips), because I’m new to the environment and hopefully I can get better and be performing in front of the fans very soon.

“It’s going to be challenging for me for to break into such a world class team, but I take that as a challenge and hopefully I can run on the field with my new teammates soon.”

Naulago arrives in Bristol fully aware of the club’s rich Pacific Island history and with his heart set on emulating the success of the players who have gone before him, and those he now calls teammates. With Samoan Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, fellow Fijian-born players, Semi Radradra and Nathan Hughes, and a host of Samoan and Tongan stars in the Bears’ dressing room, settling into his new surroundings has something of a homely feel.

“It’s like being back at home, around your neighbours and certainly makes settling in easier,” said Naulago.

“I know that here at Bristol, there is a big history with the Island boys throughout the years, but for me, when I come here, it’s like I’ve known the lads here for ages, and that’s how Island boys are. But I’m here to do a job and I’m looking forward to it.”

Naulago’s passage to Ashton Gate is a remarkable one, having moved to the British Isles from Fiji aged just 18 to join the armed forces. He soon became a mortarman in the first battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, before being stationed in Cyprus for two years and making a brief trip to Afghanistan. He put his military responsibilities on hold to pursue his rugby career and has been granted an extended leave by the Army, allowing him to take up his contract at Bristol Bears – and he’s determined to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

“The culture that Pat presented to me in the interview, it’s so welcoming and it drives you to want to represent the Bristol Bears – it’s not only on the field, but off the field as well as we try and inspire the community through rugby success. It all pushed me to want to join the Bears.

“I want to challenge myself every day and improve. I’m new to the environment so I want to always improve myself and build towards a first game at Ashton Gate.

“I can’t wait to get started.”


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